Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Dodgers’ NLDS Game 5 loss is on Dave Roberts

53 Comments

The Dodgers are out of the playoffs much earlier than anticipated after dropping Game 5 of the NLDS to the Nationals on Wednesday night. After comfortably leading the Nationals 3-0 through five innings and 3-1 through seven, the Dodgers’ bullpen — specifically Clayton Kershaw and Joe Kelly — forked over the lead. The Nationals were off to the races, ultimately winning 7-3 in 10 innings.

Here’s what transpired:

  • Manager Dave Roberts brought Kershaw in for the final out of the seventh inning in relief of starter Walker Buehler, who exited with runners on first and second and two outs
  • Kershaw remained in the game in the eighth, immediately serving up back-to-back solo home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, tying the game at 3-3
  • Kelly entered the game in the ninth inning, working a 1-2-3 inning
  • Kelly remained in the game in the 10th inning, loading the bases with no outs on a walk, a ground-rule double, and an intentional walk before surrendering a go-ahead grand slam to Howie Kendrick

Dodgers fans and people who have watched the Dodgers in recent years saw that happening from a mile away. Consider Dodgers fan and Baseball Prospectus editor-in-chief Craig Goldstein, who tweeted on Monday, “Already getting annoyed at how the Dodgers are going to use Kershaw in Game 5 […] when they don’t need to anyway because their bullpen is good enough to not have to turn to a starter when Buehler is throwing.

Bullpen management is not Roberts’ strong suit, especially in the playoffs. Here’s an article Craig wrote last postseason about Roberts’ bullpen management. How about one from 2017? And here’s one from me in 2016, just for good measure.

Roberts compounded his error by gambling on Kelly after he pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the ninth. Kelly went multiple innings in eight of his 55 appearances during the regular season. He allowed nine runs in total across those 12 1/3 innings. Kelly was also coming off of a disastrous Game 3 appearance in which he loaded the bases on two walks and a single, uncorked a wild pitch, and walked another batter before leaving without recording an out. Kelly’s 10th inning in Game 5 went: walk, ground-rule double, intentional walk, grand slam. His 1-2-3 ninth inning was less predictable than that.

The Dodgers’ bullpen as a unit isn’t bad. Its aggregate 3.85 ERA ranked fifth in baseball. Its 4.06 FIP ranked sixth and 4.25 xFIP seventh. Closer Kenley Jansen appeared in the NLDS just once, with a six-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 3. Pedro Báez recorded two outs in the series, one apiece in Game 2 and 4. Adam Kolarek held Soto 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in three at-bats previously in the series. None of them were used in Game 5 in meaningful situations. The Dodgers paid dearly for Roberts’ lack of confidence in the rest of his bullpen.

Kershaw and Kelly are going to take some heat for their failures in Game 5. It’s not squarely on their shoulders. Roberts didn’t put them in a position to succeed. He mismanaged his bullpen again and now a team that won 106 games during the regular season will not advance into the NLCS. One wonders if this loss might be so bad that it costs Roberts his job in L.A.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

Astros
AP Images
10 Comments

Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.